Sciatica Q & A
What is Sciatica?
Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body. It runs from your lower back down through your buttocks and into your legs. This nerve controls muscles in your lower legs and also lets you feel sensations in the skin covering your lower legs and feet.
Sciatica is the term used to describe a problem with your sciatic nerve that is causing a specific type of back pain. It’s a symptom, not a condition in and of itself.
What Causes Sciatica?
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lower portion of your spine. A herniated disc occurs when the soft, gel-like center of an intervertebral disc begins to push or bulge out of the firmer layer of rubbery tissue that encapsulates it. The bulging tissue can place undue pressure on your sciatic nerve, which causes significant pain and other sensations.
Other causes of sciatica include:
- Muscle spasms
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
Fortunately, unlike many back issues, sciatica is relatively easy to diagnose.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
The most common symptom of sciatica is lower back pain. Additional symptoms include:
- Hip pain
- Sensation of burning or tingling running down one leg
- Shooting pain that runs down one leg and makes it hard to stand
- Pain that grows worse when you sit
- Sensations of numbness or weakness in your leg or foot
- Trouble moving your foot
Sciatica usually causes symptoms on only one side of your body. It’s not uncommon for pain to extend from your lower back down through your thigh and into your leg.
What are Some Ways to Treat Sciatica?
Your doctor creates a treatment based on the severity of your symptoms and your overall health. Physical therapy is one approach and can help you grow stronger and improve your posture, both of which can relieve sciatica pain.
If you’re overweight or obese, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can make a world of difference to your sciatica pain. You can begin with short walks and work up to longer periods of activity.
Medications can help control sciatica pain, including antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and pain relievers. Drug therapy comes with side effects, though, and should be used in moderation.
Epidural steroid injections work by reducing inflammation. These shots are administered directly into the nerve roots to deliver immediate relief. If these treatments and lifestyle modifications fail to yield the desired results, surgery can help by removing structures that are placing pressure on your sciatic nerve.
When you’re ready to explore these and other treatments, book your one-on-one consultation at the Comprehensive Pain Center office today.